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Unsung Heroes: The Amazing Achievements of Paralympic Athletes

Milad Abdelhay, Law 

Historically, the Paralympic games have always been overlooked in the shadow of the Olympics in previous years. However, in recent times interest in the Paralympic games seems to be growing and the amazing achievements of such brave individuals are being celebrated globally. The rise in popularity is evident through stories of sporting stars; Melissa Stockwell, competing in the para-triathlon, and McKenna Dahl, in the sport of shooting. Statistics show this rise with an increase from 400 participants in  Rome 1960, to over 4,000 from 159 countries in the 2016 Rio games.

Melissa Stockwell, a former US soldier who unfortunately lost her left leg as a result of a home-made IED in Iraq, went on to represent the United States of America in swimming at 2008 Paralympics. She won three world championships in a para-triathlon and was crowned  bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Stockwell is training hard in an attempt to win a gold medal at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo games to further increase her already long list of incredible achievements. She seeks to inspire the up and coming generation of Paralympic athletes. In an interview with BBC Sport she says, “Maybe there’s a 10-year old girl who just lost her leg and doesn’t know what she can do with her life and she turns on the TV or looks on her phone and says ‘look at this girl, she’s just like me, if she can do that, I can do it as well’.

The second inspiration taking Paralympics to worldwide prominence is McKenna Dahl. Her parents were informed, prior to her birth, that she would be physically incapacitated with regard to; walking, talking, and competing with her fellow age mates. Despite this, she pursued her passion in shooting, culminating in her becoming an American Olympic bronze medallist in R5 10 metre Air rifle shooting. She is also the first US woman to win a Paralympic shooting medal. But her journey and desire for success does not end there. With similar aspirations to Stockwell, Dahl is competing to achieve the prestigious Gold medal at the Tokyo games.

These inspiring and successful stories have seen the expansion of the British Paralympic Association welcoming its latest partner, the Dwarf Sports Association UK. This shows the rising opportunities within the Paralympics and the inclusion of grass roots sports for athletes with disabilities on the global stage. 

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